Toyota and Ford are producing the best hybrid vehicles, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
In its annual review of hybrids, the organization ranked the Toyota Prius, Ford Fusion hybrid and Honda Civic hybrid as the top vehicles in the nonluxury segment of the market. The nonprofit group rated the Lincoln MKZ hybrid, built by Ford, and the Lexus CT 200H, a Toyota product, as the top luxury models.
The rankings are based on a combination of fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions and the number of so-called options that buyers are forced to purchase when buying a hybrid version of a vehicle as opposed to how the standard gasoline model is sold.
“We are comparing each model to its conventional gasoline counterpart. The hybrid MKZ gives you a huge boost on fuel economy. You go from 21 to 39 miles per gallon,” said Don Anair, an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The Prius, which is a dedicated hybrid model, was measured against the Toyota Matrix because they have similar engine size, performance and interior space, Anair said.
Hybrid versions of SUVs, including the Chevrolet Tahoe and Volkswagen Touareg, generally fared poorly in the rankings, although the Toyota Highlander, Lexus 450h and Cadillac Escalade did get good marks.
The Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid, for example, gets less than a 10% improvement in its global warming emissions over the conventional version, the group said. Most hybrids get about a 40% emissions reduction.
Some “automakers are using the technology to increase power over the conventional model rather than to achieve fuel savings,” Anair said.
The top-selling hybrids achieve 30 mpg or better, he said, and that should be a guideline for automakers who want to have success in the market.
Anair said several automakers were working to make hybrid models more accessible to consumers.
Ford does not charge a premium over the conventional gasoline sedan to purchase its new Lincoln MKZ hybrid, the Union of Concerned Scientists noted. And Honda has dropped the price of its Insight hybrid.
“The overall finding is that there are number of models out there today that are delivering significant fuel savings to consumers and are good value. But out of the 34 hybrid models we evaluated, the majority are not delivering the fuel savings that are available with hybrid technology,” Anair said.
The rankings can be found here:
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-- Jerry Hirsch
Photo: A Toyota Prius on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. Credit: Associated Press